Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden addressed reporters Wednesday for the first time since the team traded wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick.
With the trades of Khalil Mack and Cooper in the past two months, the Raiders (1-5) are clearly going in a new direction.
Gruden explained he has the team’s best interest in mind for the present and future, but added he doesn’t anticipate the Raiders making further moves ahead of the NFL’s Oct. 30 trade deadline.
"I don’t see us making any more trades," Gruden told reporters. "I didn’t see us making a trade the other day. I really didn’t. But sometimes, like I said, your plans change whether you like it or not. You don’t know who’s going to call you and what they’re going to say, you really don’t. … I don’t see us making any more trades. But I’ll never say never again to anybody."
Does that stance apply to quarterback Derek Carr?
"I don’t see us making any more trades," Gruden repeated. "Certainly, I don’t see us trading our quarterback."
While the head coach appeared to give a vote of confidence to Carr, it was far from a definitive answer to shut down any trade speculation surrounding the fourth-year quarterback.
Carr has also found himself in the middle of controversy after a report surfaced calling into question Carr’s toughness and of locker room issues between him and other players an.
Tight end Lee Smith took exception to the report.
"It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard ever," Smith said Wednesday, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic. "It’s to the point to where it’s comical and laughable that I’m even sitting here talking about it. Us as players have zero issue with DC. He is our leader; he’s always been our leader. We put a C on his chest for a reason along with Rodney Hudson.
"Regardless of what face he makes after a tackle or what everybody wants to dive into and wear him out about, attacking his character or attacking him as a leader on this football team is a joke. And I hope that everyone hears me loud and clear about what a joke it is. It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. And it’s laughable and not fair to him when it’s obviously not coming from inside this locker room.
"Anybody can say whatever they want. Coach Gruden and Derek are going to take all of the bullets. We’re 1-5 we’re not playing the football we want to play. Coach Gruden had a lot of expectations coming in, we had a lot of expectations coming in. Those two guys take most of the bullets and those two can definitely handle it. If anybody can handle it it’s Derek Carr based off the person he is and the character he has. But to ever insinuate that there’s an issue in this locker room with our leader and our captain is the biggest joke I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been around this league my whole life."
For his part, Carr takes the chatter in stride.
And when it comes to trade speculation, Carr is equipped with a realistic understanding on the business side of football because of advice from his brother, former NFL quarterback and current NFL Network analyst David Carr.
"My brother told me when I came into the NFL: If they cut Peyton Manning, they’re going to cut you some day, too," Carr told reporters. "To be honest with you, I’m the quarterback here today. I have confidence I’ll be here tomorrow and when we turn this around, I’m very confident I’m going to be here when we do that as well."
In the meantime, the Raiders are set up well for the future with three first-round picks in 2019. Oakland has their own pick, the Bears’ spot from the Mack trade and the Cowboys’ pick.
Gruden and the personnel decision makers, however, have to hit on those picks with blue-chip players when considering the loss of an All-Pro in Mack and Pro Bowler in Cooper.
Here are other highlights from Wednesday’s media session:
ï¿½ï¿½ Gruden on the teamwork behind the scenes to build the Raiders: "We’re working together — Reggie McKenzie, Mark Davis, myself and coaching staff — to try to get some stability here. Get this football team to a point where we can compete for championships. It’s hard to do without guys like we’ve traded, but it’s also exciting to think that somewhere down the road we can get the chance to pick some pretty good players."
ï¿½ï¿½ Gruden on why Cooper didn’t work out: "He had some good games … but what obviously happened is we felt we had an opportunity to improve this team, and there were a lot more things that went into it than just who we throw the ball to. … We made a tough decision and we’re going to live with it."
ï¿½ï¿½ Carr on Cooper being traded: "It was hard. … Honestly, just as a friend, just being in the business it was hard when I read it (text message Cooper sent to Carr on trade)."
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